3 Things Your Therapist Wants You to Do Before Couples Therapy Begins

How to Survive Before Couples Therapy Begins

Suggestions to cope before therapy begins at Buckman couples therapy.From my many years as a couples therapist, I have learned one of the most difficult phases of the work is when a couple has committed to repairing their marriage, but before the repair has begun.

It’s an important time: you and your partner have decided to go to couples therapy, so you’ve researched local counselors and booked an appointment. But your first session hasn’t happened yet and you’re still feeling distressed, disconnected, or dissatisfied.

Some models of relationship counseling have specific tasks for this stage, such as the online relationship assessment for the Prepare/Enrich program. Therapists may also have their own preferred assessment measures, such as the classic Dyadic Adjustment Scale or the newer Gottman Relationship Checkup.

But these assessments are meant to inform your therapist about where to start treatment, about the issues and dynamics contributing to conflict or distress. They don’t help you and your partner get through the days or weeks until your first appointment with any more peace or patience.

So what should you be doing? Thinking about? Paying attention to? Here are three things I ask of couples seeing me for the first time, before therapy begins:

1. PREVENT FURTHER DAMAGE
To prevent further damage, do your best to stop unhealthy patterns of interaction that are causing distress in the relationship. There has been enough conflict already. In other words, it’s important to bring your best self to every exchange so you don’t heap problems on top of problems.
You’ve committed to therapy to make positive changes, and they can start right now.

For example, if you’re used to yelling at each other, preventing further damage means keeping your volume low and your tone pleasant. If you’ve been sleeping in separate rooms, preventing further damage means respecting the boundaries each of you have set to avoid distress.

2. PRIORITIZE SELF-CARE
To prioritize self-care is to choose behaviors that nourish your body and spirit. The road to relationship health through therapy may be long and difficult, so it’s important to prepare yourself mentally and physically. Prioritizing self-care means taking good care of yourself.

If you find yourself back in a familiar dance of hurt feelings, miscommunication, or bad habits, remember to prevent further damage.

Here are seven ways to be intentional about self-care:
Eat fresh, healthy foods.
Drink plenty of water.
Rest when you are tired.
Prioritize sufficient, uninterrupted sleep.
Exercise and stretch your body.
Seek joy through the arts (music, comedy, theater/movies, art).
Soak up love from supportive relationships (children, friends, family).
You may realize it’s been a while since you were intentional about caring for yourself. Don’t worry—self-care can start right now.

3. PRACTICE INTROSPECTION
No matter which theory of couples therapy your therapist is trained in—Emotionally Focused Therapy, Imago, and the Gottman Method may be the most well-known for their evidence-based practice—one of the primary ways your therapist will intervene in your distress is to help you and your partner think and feel differently about what is happening. These skills of perspective taking don’t come naturally to all of us, but there are ways to practice before therapy begins.

One way to practice introspection is to think about your experience from a new perspective. I’ve written previously about the power of therapy to shift your point of view, and the metaphor can help before therapy even begins. Ask yourself: What are the ways I understand or explain what is happening in my relationship? Are there alternative ways to understand it, even if I don’t agree with them? How does my partner explain what is happening? Are we looking at things from the balcony or the dance floor? What might I see if I look from the other perspective?

Another way to practice introspection is to become familiar with the idea of mindfulness. Yoga, guided imagery, apps like Headspace or Calm, or spending intentional time in nature are readily available ways to bring mindfulness into your life.

When you are ready to start the process of couples therapy, make an appointment at my Buckman area office.

Courtesy of Good Therapy.

 

Danger of “if then” thinking

Can Life Coaching Help with ‘If Then’ Thinking?

Have you ever had the thought of “If I (fill in the blank), then (fill in in the blank)” or “once I…, then I’ll…”

Choices in life coaching Portland-If I move to another city, then I’ll be happy.

-Once I get this together, then I’ll be able to do this.

-Once I turn 50, then I’ll buy myself that car.

-Once I have enough experience then I can start that new project.

-If I ever win the lottery, then I’ll buy my dream home.

-Once I start therapy/coaching/medication, I’ll feel better.

Do any of these sound familiar? What are some other ones that you may find yourself thinking? Continue reading

A few shifts from arguing

Life Coaching Tips to Avoid Arguments

If you notice getting into an argument/ yelling match and it feels all too familiar, here are a few steps to help shift the dynamic:

  1. Change your posture. Chances are if you’re in an argument your face is scrunched, brow furrowed, and holding your breath. Take a moment to change your posture- stretch your arms out and back, expose your chest some, stretch side to side, roll your neck
  2. Breath deeply. Blow all your air out and hold it. Take a full breath in
  3. Life sometimes needs coaching tips for arguments.Notice if you are defensive. Are you looking to explain why you are right and they are wrong? If yes, admit you are there and know that most likely from this place you know how it plays out. Stop if you are defensive. 
  4. Ask yourself if you can see this person as your ally. 
  5. If not, take a break. To paraphrase Einstein, a problem can’t be solved in the same mindset it was created in. Do not expect to solve it if you don’ t shift your mindset that started the argument.

This is of course just a few options with short explanations. There is certainly more exploration to this and it is a start.

Cheers to more life and connection in your relationship. With life coaching we can work on any relationships and tips for your life. Contact me for more details.

Compliments to Marcolm at freedigitalphotos.net

How I work with people: part 4

Things to Love About Coaching Homework

Another word on homework. I often have people come in having not done their homework. It is not my job to shame you, I find that people do that enough without adding any more. We can explore what occurred that you didn’t do it. Although, I often find that a couple of things can happen when people haven’t “done” their homework:

  1. they did and just didn’t realize it
  2. they explored something else that had meaning to them
  3. what was homework, didn’t show up for them so they didn’t have the opportunity to explore it
  4. there was hesitation to facing into the homework and then the work is to explore that.

LGTBQ-friendly coaching homework Portland.The thing I love about homework is that the therapy or coaching session is not just this isolated event, a bubble of time for you to focus on you. Granted it is time for you, sometimes the only place people have to be listened to, connect with another and heard fully. Homework is a thread that connects the sessions together. It is a time for you to continue your intention to work on your goals outside of the walls of my Portland office. It is practice in “real time” in your “real life.”

To get started with your homework contact me to start your Portland coaching sessions with an LGTBQ-friendly therapist.

Photo compliments of Mister GC at freedigitalphotos.net

How I work with people part 3

What is Counseling Homework?

In counseling and coaching, people may come in wanting to be “fixed.” That is not my job. It is also not how I see people. I see people as whole, yes you are on a journey and there may be things that you want changed (that is why people come see me because they want something changed and don’t know how to go about making the changes). And you are not broken or messed up or completely shattered, you are whole just as you are in the midst of the challenges that you are facing.

Often times the steps may be small. People often don’t take a gigantic leap. More often than not, it is a baby step by baby step and sometimes  it may feel like you’re either going backwards Counseling homework for Portland, Oregon LGBT friendly therapist.or falling down. Sometimes the sessions are not a nicely wrapped present with a beautiful bow on top. Sometimes they end in a way that feels very undone. This can also be a time when a lot of change can happen, as you sit with what’s going on.

I do like to give homework, I have adolescents who call it something else since they have enough homework from school- growth opportunity, advancement protocol, something to think about. The homework, or whatever you choose to call it, is something that was explored in the session. Of course that is not always the case, sometimes people want to inquire into something completely different. Either way, I ask if you have ideas and I can toss out some ideas as well. You get to decide what you want to do. The concept of homework is to keep you thinking, exploring, delving into, to keep your intention and attention on movement, to be aware of how you are in the world so that what “just happens” will become conscious and therefore you have a choice in the matter.

Are you ready to work on your counseling? Contact me for area Portland, Oregon LGBT friendly counseling.

Photo compliments of Master isolated images at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

How I work with people in coaching and therapy: part 2

Questions are Part of Relationship Coaching

This is part two in an attempt to describe how I work with people.

Once we’ve set up a full session, I will send you some paperwork. It may feel completely tedious. And it is quite a bit of paperwork. Some of it is history, some of it is gathering more details about what’s going on. A big part of it is also about your goals, and how you know when you will be done with either coaching or therapy. I see both relationship coaching and therapy as a way to learn skills,Questions are the next step in relationship coaching Portland! to make changes and shifts in your life so that you can go out and do these things on your own. Goals give us a guide. They give us something to work toward, so that we are not just floundering around meeting after meeting without making steps towards what you want.

The first session is often me asking you a lot of questions. I am gathering information about what is going on, what has been going on, and what you are wanting as you move forward. The first session is not typical of how I work with people. It is you talking more and me asking more questions.

In subsequent sessions, I am more active. I see us as collaborators. I am a professional. I have a license. I go to continuing education courses. You are the expert on you. This is an on going conversation, back and forth. I am not just going to sit and listen. I am an active participant in our sessions, asking questions, gently challenging, throwing out ideas that may or may not land with you. And I am open to feedback. That is also important for you to know. If you are not getting what you want, say something to me. It doesn’t help to vent to your friend or even just stop coming. Let’s have a conversation about it. I don’t want it to be a waste of your time or your money. If I am not able to provide the support you are looking for I can give you referrals.

If you have more questions about relationship coaching services I offer in Portland – call!

Photo compliments of punsayaporn at Freedigitalphotos.net

How I work with people in coaching and therapy: part 1

Portland LGTBQ Coaching Consultation

Often times people will come and not know what to expect. I thought this might be a good platform to talk about that.

What to expect in a coaching consultation for Portland LGTBQ clients.I offer a free 20 minute coaching consultation. During this, I meet with people briefly. We don’t necessarily get into the nitty-gritty of what’s going on. I see it more as a meet and greet. It gives both of us an idea of the other person, to find out if we may be a good fit. This gives you a chance to share what you are looking for in a therapist and what issues you are working on to determine if I may able to work with you.

One of the main things to consider doing a consultation or a first meeting, is to ask yourself if you can see yourself trusting this person. A therapeutic or coaching relationship is like any other relationship, it takes time to build trust. You may end up talking about very intimate things. And trust is part of the foundation.  I certainly don’t expect you to trust me in the first 5 or even 20 minutes, or even the first several sessions. What I do ask is, do you see yourself being able to trust me with the intimate details of your life. Do you trust me to guide you on this journey towards your goals?

Make a consultation appointment today! I offer coaching for Portland area LGTBQ and ally clients.

Compliments of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Ending therapy or coaching

When Finishing Your Therapy in Portland Oregon

At some point it is time to end the process of coaching or therapy. It may be something you bring up or your coach or therapist brings up.

Endings can be hard. My own experience and those I see in sessions is that saying goodbye is something that is not taught. So it is understandable when people avoid them. I have had people just disappear and I have no idea what happened. I have also had sweet endings where we have spent several sessions talking about the end.

When finishing your behavioral therapy in Portland Oregon.Endings can be hard, it is closing a chapter or even a book. I would encourage you to face this, as it can be quite healing to have a conscious, intentional parting. Some things to explore with ending:

  1. Ask yourself how you have handled endings in the past.
  2. What have you learned, what will you take away.
  3. Is there some sort of ritual or something that you want to take with you from this experience.
  4. Do you want to hear the coach or therapist’s view of the process
  5. Review the time together.
  6. And give feedback to the coach or therapist (both what you would consider positive and negative) as it is a process for the coach or therapist as well.

Saying goodbye doesn’t have to be hard. Think through the process with these tips and contact me today.

Photo compliments of StuartMiles at freedigitalphotos.net

Timeframe for Coaching and Therapy

When is it Time to Stop Your Cognitive Therapy?

How do you know when to stop therapy and coaching? Sometimes my clients will ask about The process of cognitive therapy & coaching - Portland Oregon.their graduation date. This is an interesting idea. Some people think of graduation as a destination. I have arrived. Now I have accomplished that. Done. Other people see graduation as a stepping stone. I have accomplished this and now I have a new goal. It is not like this kid who is showing you that it is time. Unfortunately there is not certain answer to this question.

I see life as a process. It is a continual growing place. I am not ever “at” a destination. The age old saying by Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Life is a journey not a destination,” says it perfectly. There is no set mark at which you finally arrive. I think of a tree- it is growing or it is withering. There is no stagnation, no in between.

People come in with goals. Sometimes these goals are met and they are complete. Sometimes the goals expand to something else or become more complex the deeper we explore. Sometimes people take time off to be able to practice their new skills they have learned and may or may not come back for a tune up. Sometimes it is an ongoing relationship where it is about the process and continual support as life is a journey.

I would encourage you to check in with yourself. It is actually a question I ask on my intake form- “How will you know when you are done?” If you are starting the process of cognitive therapy or coaching or currently seeing someone, ask yourself what your goals have been/are currently, ask yourself what you are wanting out of the process with your coach or therapist.

If you are looking to explore your goals in cognitive therapy in the Portland Oregon area, call for an appointment.

Photo compliments from stockimages of freedigitalphotos.net.

Yet

image“Yet” is such a small word yet has a lot of strength. I can say, “I don’t know how to feel better,” now add that tiny word behind, “I don’t know how to feel better yet.” A different feel. It has a sense of hope to it.  It unlocks the possibilities.

I use this word quite a bit in my therapy and coaching practice. People may feel depressed or anxious and have an idea of how life is or should be, their own capabilities, what is possible. When adding “yet” to the end of the sentence, it adds an openness. It is not a period at the end of the sentence, it is more of an open endedness.

I notice when I say, “I don’t know how to do this,” I feel heavy, defeated, as if there is no other option  I don’t know how and that is the way it is. When I say, “I don’t know how to do this yet,” I notice a sense that there is a possibility of me knowing how to do it in the future even if I don’t know how to now.

If you choose to continue in this exploration, play with adding “yet” onto the end of your sentences. If you are in relationship play with it in sentences about what your partner is or isn’t doing that you want.

Photo compliments of Stuart Miles at freedigitalphotos.net